Reflections on writing series books – part 1

You’re a newbie author, trying to work out what to write. Should you write a series, because if you sell the book, chances are you’ll be asked to write two more books, all about the same character? Or do you write standalone books, to give yourself a better range of options when you’re looking for an agent and a publisher?

There’s no one answer to this. What works for some authors won’t necessarily work for others. In the end it comes down to how it works best for you.

We started by writing standalone novels. That suited us. We had lots of stories we wanted to tell, and they were in mixed genres. Fantasy, young-adult, science fiction, and at least one science fiction mystery cross.

Our agent took us on for a science fiction novel. Naturally, we mentioned our other work, and even sent her a fantasy novel we’d written, but she told us very early that she would prefer initially to establish us as science fiction authors.

We were fine with that, especially as the science fiction we had sent her was the science fiction we loved to write.

TakeAway_1Be sure that you love the genre and style you are submitting in, because if you get an agent or sell your book, they’ll likely want more of the same.

 

TakeAway_bonusEnsure that you and your agent have the same business vision for your writing.

 

Having said all the above, if you write genre there is a good chance your publisher will want a series. That’s usually, but not always, three books.

TakeAway_2If you don’t think you can write three books in the series, be honest about it up front.

 

This was another thing we discussed with our agent. We chose to write another two loosely-related books. That is, two more books set in the same universe but with different main protagonists. We loved the setting and we had lots more stories to tell.

When our agent sold the book, however, the editor wanted three books about the same character.

We had spent considerable time and discussion on the other stories, but the main character was only a secondary character in the new stories.

TakeAway_3Be prepared. Be flexible. Understand that what you offer may not be what the editor wants. Don’t say, “Yes,” just to get published. Think about whether you can deliver it. If you don’t think you can, be honest up front.

Because, after all …

TakeAway_4You have to deliver what you agree to.

 

 

We talked about it, and decided we could write three books about Ean Lambert, and came up with some ideas. We came up with them in a hurry, maybe not the best idea on reflection, but we got our three book contract.

Now, we’re authors who normally sit on a book idea for months, keeping it in the back of our mind, gradually adding other ideas to it as we go. We’d already written book one, we were ready to start on book two. And we hadn’t really thought much about the plot of the second book yet.

TakeAway_5Know how you write. Understand the limitations, accept them, and work around them.

 

I don’t think we could have done it differently to the way we did, but it definitely made book two more difficult to write than book three, which we’re working on now. Book three has had six months to germinate, and as a result it’s a better, cleaner story. We think it will be easier to write too.

The writing itself comes with its own challenges. Keeping track of names, remembering who did what, and trying to give backstory in books two and three without dragging the story down, all the while remaining true to the characters and how they behaved in the earlier books.

But that’s for another post. But first, we have to talk about the series story arc.

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